Hipper Than Instant: Hipstamatic's Intriguing Marketing Opp

Camera-App-BThis week the FTC cleared Facebook’s acquisition of the hot photo-sharing/editing app and company Instagram. With the plummeting of Facebook’s stock price (below $20 now), the deal that had been announced at $1 billion is now down to $747.1 million, reports Reuters. As I have said before, I think that in adding Instagram, Facebook not only gets a much-needed toehold into other mobile formats, but the social net also strikes a different tone.

Unlike the constant flow of random friend and faux friend updates that have become that gusher of posts from Facebook, the photo/video editing and sharing apps simply have more upbeat and enjoyable content. People take and share pictures of things they find beautiful in some way. On Facebook, the aim is variously to inform, sometimes debate, sometimes applaud, commemorate, or decry. It is the stuff of human discourse. The creative apps on mobile tend toward sharing delight. There is a tonal difference. I go to Facebook to check in and catch up. I go to Instagram to enjoy something.

But the business models for Instagram remain a bit fuzzy, especially as they integrate with a parent company that is still struggling to figure out how marketers and consumers cohabit on mobile. At this week’s Mobile Insider Summit, one of the panels appeared to agree that so far Facebook has so rigorously focused on user experience (laudable as that is conceptually) that they haven’t thought through enough how advertisers have an acceptable place here.

A niche-oriented alternative to Instagram, Hipstamatic demonstrates an interesting model for branding within the confines of the editing space. Their image app is geared toward the next level of nostalgia for bygone film photography days. In their app, which I understand has been embraced by some fashionistas and photo bugs, you can swap in different types of film, lens, and flash units as well as camera cases.

W Magazine is currently running a promotional program within the app that gives users a W photo pack containing their own customized versions of the Hipstamatic equipment. Photogs then can use this pack to take shots and enter into a contest, get their photos in a gallery show and even win a commission to do a photo layout in the magazine.

I know that the video editing app SocialCam has been exploring using branded filters from the movie industry. One of the cool things about the W Magazine execution in Instagram is that you get depth to the messaging. Each one of the elements in the pack has a description that pulls you into the fashion-photography style evoked by the brand. This is in keeping with the basic structure of the Hipstamatic app, which takes the hip nostalgia of Instagram to a deeper level.

And the marketing partnership here is a perfect example of creating integrated programs that enhance what the consumer is already doing rather than interrupt it. Apps give marketers the perfect platform for this kind of integration, since the app by its very utilitarian nature is defining what that target audience likes to do. 

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